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Archive for Monday, October 28, 2002

Endorsement race

October 28, 2002

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Who is endorsing whom in the current election campaign? Does it really matter?

As political campaigns wind down toward the Nov. 5 election, many television commercials, press releases and newspaper articles will talk about who is endorsing certain candidates.

How important are endorsements to a candidate's campaign?

Some observers consider the endorsement of senior party members to be key to a candidate's success. Often, those endorsements are automatic, but fractured allegiances within the Republican Party have produced several interesting endorsement situations in Kansas this year.

After apparently playing hard to get, Gov. Bill Graves endorsed his fellow Republican Tim Shallenburger in the governor's race. Graves also implied endorsements by traveling with and supporting other Republican candidates for state offices, but there has been no Graves' endorsement, implied or otherwise, for attorney general candidate Phill Kline. Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall hasn't endorsed either candidate in the race to become her successor.

Kline, however, has other GOP supporters and is running commercials using an endorsement President Bush taped during Kline's 2000 U.S. House campaign. National Republican sources confirm Bush's support of Kline's current campaign and the use of the tape from 2000.

Adam Taff the Republican challenger to incumbent Democrat Dennis Moore in the 3rd District congressional race also has drawn notable support from some big GOP guns including visits to Kansas by Vice President Dick Cheney and former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole. Shallenburger also has received Dole's endorsement.

Democrats are pretty united in the support of their own candidates and Kathleen Sebelius has drawn support in her gubernatorial campaign from a newly formed group labeling itself "Republicans for Sebelius" which has members of the moderate wing of the state GOP as its core.

Some Democrats may be forming similar groups for Republican candidates, but, again, do such groups carry much weight? What do these endorsements mean? Do they mean anything?

Some voters probably are influenced by knowing someone they trust or respect is voting for a certain candidate. Such endorsements probably have the most effect on voters who have greater party loyalty.

Candidates also are eager to obtain newspaper endorsements of their campaigns. These endorsements may make a more complete case for a certain candidate than a 10-second sound bite does, but it's unclear how many voters are influenced by newspaper editorials.

In either case, endorsements also can have a negative impact on a campaign. In the August primary, Republican David Adkins was heavily endorsed by top Republicans including Graves and Sen. Pat Roberts. Some observers now say such endorsements may have seemed heavy-handed and contributed to what some saw as an arrogant tone to Adkins' campaign. Other candidates confirm that endorsements can be a double-edged sword and say they don't actively seek the endorsement of some special interest groups that might cause voters to have second thoughts about the candidate.

Candidates constantly are weighing the pros and cons of every statement, every commercial, every endorsement, and in a close campaign even small factors can make the difference between victory and defeat. It's all a reminder that no matter what candidates present, it's up to voters to be careful consumers of information so they can make intelligent decisions when they head to the polls.

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